Common thread: Fourth-generation Eagle Scout’s story told through sashes

From left: Ethan's great-grandfather's sash, his grandfather's sash, his dad's sash, and his own sash.

The sash tells the story.

There is perhaps no better way to begin to understand the journey of a Scout than to look at the green strip of cloth draped over their shoulder. Each merit badge carefully sewn onto the sash represents skills and life lessons learned over days, weeks or months.

Even the order in which those badges are presented reveals how that Scout’s journey evolved over time — a tale told in pictographs.

In the case of Ethan Kane and his family, the story of the sash has not one volume but four.

On May 1, Ethan had his Eagle Scout court of honor — a chance to honor the memories collected as he earned the Eagle Scout Award with Troop 156 of the Northeast Illinois Council.

But that occasion was special for another reason. When Ethan received his Eagle medal, he became a rare fourth-generation Eagle Scout.

Ethan’s dad, Larry, earned the Eagle Scout Award in 1993 as a member of Troop 270 of Mount Prospect, Ill.

Ethan’s maternal grandfather (his mom’s dad), Joel Greenwald, is a Class of 1966 Eagle Scout from Troop 40 of New Jersey.

And Joel Greenwald’s dad (Ethan’s great-grandfather), Irving Greenwald, was both an Eagle Scout and a Silver Antelope recipient.

“Being a fourth-generation Eagle Scout is pretty amazing to me,” Ethan tells us. “I’m really proud I could continue the family tradition and can’t wait until my younger brother does the same.”

Ethan just finished eighth grade, meaning he has plenty of Scouting moments ahead of him. Like many other Eagle Scouts who earn the award with time to spare before turning 18, Ethan plans to make the most of his time wearing the red, white and blue rank badge.

“I have the ability to really dedicate my Scouting time to helping the younger Scouts make their next rank or learn a new skill,” he says. “All my time can go into supporting the troop, and I’m happy to be able to do that.”

Common threads

The four sashes, seen in chronological order above, showcase the similarities and differences between each Eagle Scout’s journey.

You can perform your own forensic analysis by using this great volunteer-created resource to decipher what each badge means.

But we did notice that:

  • Each of them earned the Cooking merit badge. For Irving and Joel, the badge was represented by a black cooking pot. For Larry and Ethan, it was a chef’s hat and utensils. By the time Ethan earned the badge, it had become required for Eagle.
  • Each earned the First Aid merit badge early on — one of the first nine merit badges earned (assuming they were sewed on in chronological order).
  • At first glance, you might think that Ethan, his dad and his great-grandfather each earned the Horsemanship merit badge. You’re right that Ethan and his dad earned it (look for the saddle on a red background), but the horse head you see on Irving’s sash actually represents the Animal Industry merit badge, which in 1975 was combined into the Animal Science merit badge.

What other family trends do you spot? Let us know in the comments.

Ethan gives his grandfather his Eagle Scout pin.

The proud father

Larry Kane displayed the family’s four merit badge sashes at Ethan’s Eagle court of honor. He added the Eagle Scout medals each of the family members had earned.

“It was a very special tribute to his history in the Eagle Scout community,” Larry says.

Speaking of special moments, Larry took a few moments to publicly address his son at the court of honor. Rather than pull out a piece of two from his remarks, we think you should read the entire thing:

“For me, today is very special because, selfishly, I always wanted you to become an Eagle Scout. It was something I accomplished, and by the good fortune of me marrying your mom, it’s something that your grandfather and great-grandfather also accomplished.

“I wanted it for you, not because of the honor itself, but because of what it represents about who you are and your character. But a parent’s want and a child’s desire are often two different things.

“So now, how fortunate am I that you really love the Scouting program.

“I might have brought you to the meetings, but you made the choice to attend camps, earn your ranks, earn your merit badges, become a leader in the troop, and undertake a very challenging and time-consuming Eagle Scout project. And now that you are an Eagle Scout, I hope you continue to give back to the troop that you owe so much to.”

Ethan and his parents and grandfather.

Giving back

For that “challenging and time-consuming” Eagle project, Ethan planned, developed and gave leadership to an effort to build four Little Free Libraries for impoverished schools in Chicago.

To take things one step further, he also raised money for books to fill those libraries.

Over the course of one month, Ethan led a team of volunteers that included Scouts, friends and family. Together, they built and painted four Little Free Libraries — cutting wood, sanding each piece, assembling the boxes, and painting them blue and white.

Next, they canvassed the community to collect books — ending up with more than 1,000 books to place inside the libraries.

“The Little Libraries will give plenty of books to children in neighborhoods that may not even have a school library,” Ethan says. “This project made me feel good to give to a community in need. And still today, the Scouts in the troop talk about building the libraries in my driveway. They know they made a difference in the lives of people who are not as fortunate. That makes me feel very proud.”

Pride — whether seen in filled merit badge sashes or smiling faces — certainly runs in the family.

About Bryan Wendell 3269 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.